THE BRIGHTEST SKIES… 

¨If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy,

if a blade of grass springing up in the fields,

has the power to move you, if the simple

things of Nature have a message that you

understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive!!¨ – Eleonora Duse

What a bright, and joyful time it were for both the Fauna and Flora at Deception Valley Conservancy during the Easter of 2020. For most of humanity, Easter this year was quite different from previous years. Usually, some families will go away on a short break during the holidays or visit family and friends far away. However, with most of the world being on lockdown, the only thing we could do, were to embrace time with the closest members, and rejoice in the joyful subjects, whether it were on television, social media, newspapers or even our own gardens. One such subject that brings most people utter joy, is Nature itself, the simplest of things!

Therefor, I would like to share these bright joyous moments with you. The Lions, Warthogs, and Wildebeest were all up to pure shenanigans. With the amazing rains we had, some interesting plants and fruits were discovered, and they do taste lovely indeed. The Balsampear is pure magic. When you make a tiny cut in it and leave it in the sun, it opens up like a tropical flower and exposes the red seeds inside. The flesh of the seeds is nice and sweet. On the other hand, the Sourplum (Ximenia caffra) might not sound very palatable, but if you remove the skin, the flesh is not too bad, but it is the inside of the pip that is the nicest!! It almost tastes like almonds! Even a special spider made her appearance, and not to mention the extraordinary bright blue skies after a night of rain, the exquisite full moon and the sparkle of the Southern Nightskies!

  Balsampear   Sourplum

The excitement started off with an early, cool morning. We were busy enjoying the first cup of coffee, when we heard the faint noise of a lion moaning and groaning closeby. It was strange as we heard Blondie and his pride a while before much further away. So an investigation was called for! On an old termite heap, lay a glowing lioness, like the queen that she is. By glowing I mean, she was heavily pregnant. It was one of the females that hasn´t been around for a while, and now we know why. She was looking for her fellow pride members. She should has given birth by now, but unfortunately for us, she will hide the cubs very carefully for about 6 weeks, sometimes even longer, before introducing them to the pride. Maybe by end of May, we will get so luckly as to get a glimpse of the cute, precious little cubs. We are very proud to say that the Hainaveld Game Farms together with the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, have huge success in promising a healthy lion population with great breeding success.

The next day, it were Blondie and his pride that decided to steal the show. We had the call that they chased a zebra into the fence. It is a rather common behaviour of lions on private concessions or reserves, once they learn that the fence makes their hunting easier. But if they get use to it, the repairing costs on a conservation aspect can be huge. The zebra was already dead and the teenager cubs tried to feed on it, however, that certain part of the fence being electrified, made it difficult for them. When we tried to fix the fence, they were having nothing of it, so instead, for the meanwhile we decided to drag the zebra deeper into the bush, away from the fence, so that the lions could start a feast on their meal. The idea was also to give them a bit of time to move away, so we could repair the fence in peace. However, Blondie, himself decided he wanted to challenge us, and didn’t move off till the next day!! A truly stubborn lion!

A few days later the pride was back at the lodge area. Here the fun part started. One night they decided to guard over the house of Braam, the founder of Deception Valley Lodge. They definitely are not scared of intruding one´s personal space, as they were right next to his porch. The next evening, I was under ¨lion lockdown¨ as two of the most inquisitive cubs, got hold of the porch furniture and decided to relax outside the front door. Later they moved to the back of the house with the unfortunate cushion, and played with it while laying on their backs, as a typical housecat does with a ball of wool!!

After such excitement for them, the lions decided to relax in front of the lodge the following day.  All was peaceful and quiet, until a Warthog, with her 3 little piglets, came along to drink water. One of the male cubs saw this as a playful hunting opportunity. He jumped up from his slumber and was in hot pursuit of the warthogs! Unfortunately for him, he was the only one interested in the warthogs, and none of his siblings wanted to join in. All of a sudden, the female realised that he was alone and turned around to protect her piglets. It was as if the young lion could have said ¨ Oops, now I have landed myself in serious trouble!¨ The sow charged after him with great anger, like only a grumpy pig can do, and he left them alone, rejoining the pride, while he felt very sorry for himself.

Recently a lot of people have to work from home. For some it may be torture, and our sincerest thoughts are with you. For others, they might have their gardens where they can still observe little treasures, like insects and birds. In front of our home-office, there happened quite a few interesting things as well. One morning, while the sun rose up in the bright blue sky, the rays caught the magical glitter of dew drops on a spider web. It was a huge web, and I knew, finally the Golden-Orb Web Spider has made its appearance. These spiders only appear during a season with exceptional rain and till date, we had 527mm. Often on the web of a Golden-Orb there will be Kleptoparasitic behaviour. Dew-drop spiders are small spiders found on the web of a Golden – Orb, where they scavenge of the food caught in the web. Once the prey has been caught and secured by the Golden-Orb web spider, the Dew-drop spider moves in and secures a web line around the insect and then proceeds to cut away the insect out of the main web, swinging away, taking with it the scavenged food. The poor Golden-Orb web spider is usually not aware of the kleptoparasite´s activities! Some of you might even have experienced this behaviour with fellow family members when it comes to Easter eggs and treats!

The Blue-Wildebeest must be clown of the Kalahari! These funny looking antelopes can sometimes indulge in the weirdest of behaviours. They provide a circus show on their own! One late afternoon, two of them got a bit too excited while playing and chasing each other around the trees. There were galloping, grunting and hopping. It almost wanted to make one join in on the game. However, it soon ended as they were yet again chasing each other around a bush, but then this time, both came from the same direction and were centimetres away from colliding!! If it haven´t been for their fast change of direction, I am sure both would have been found on their behinds. 

On this joyous moment with all the animal stories, I am yet lured away again. First by two warthogs having an argument outside the office and in the distance two Jackals are alarm-calling for a Leopard, so if you would excuse me, maybe we can see if we find it!!

May the Easter and Animal spirit joy lift you from loneliness, weakness and despair during the Covid-19 crisis, to strength, beauty and happiness. In times like this, it is nature that is our support and provide us with the positive qualities and thoughts. Look up at the bright, blue skies and glowing sun and get your energy from there, and be bright and bold like the Full Moon!! Sparkle like the stars! Have the courage of Blondie and his pride! Have fun with family like the Wildebeest! Be brave like the Warthog with her babies and keep your soul alive!

Our best thoughts and safe wishes to all of you!! We, together with all the animals cannot wait for you to return!!

Janie Swart

Lodge Manager